Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, spoke at a press conference today unveiling the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk” report which details government waste, fraud, and abuse. 

Chairman Akaka’s remarks, as prepared for delivery: 

Over the years, the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List has been a valuable oversight tool, especially for my subcommittee’s work to improve government management.  The list gives us a focused look at programs that need our attention to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement. 

I am pleased to see that the Department of Defense Personnel Security Clearance Program has come off of the list for 2011.  My subcommittee devoted a great deal of attention to this issue over the last several years — holding a total of seven public hearings, with many meetings and updates in between.

At our first hearing on this issue in 2005 with my friend Senator Voinovich, we began examining why it was taking over of a year to get a security clearance to work for the Department of Defense or its contractors.  What we uncovered was an outdated, inefficient system for forecasting clearance needs and conducting investigations.

The Administration created a reform team, headed by then- Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Clay Johnson, to focus high-level attention on reform.  This team consisted of experts from across the government who used sound management techniques to reengineer the process.  Current Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients has continued this effort.  As a result of these focused reform efforts, today most clearances are completed in about two months, and there is no longer any significant backlog of unfinished investigations.  I want to thank all of the dedicated civil servants in the forefront and behind the scenes that have worked so hard to get this issue off of the High Risk List.

The progress we made on security clearances should serve as a model for future, sustained oversight efforts on other issues.  This will be important for addressing management challenges and making the federal government more efficient, more effective, and more responsive. 

Strategic human capital management also has shown progress since GAO’s last report.  This is due in large part to the enactment of long-needed improvements to the federal hiring process as well as advances in federal workforce management practices across the federal government, such as the increased use of telework.  There is still room for additional improvements to address critical skill gaps in foreign language capacity and the acquisition and cybersecurity workforces.

My subcommittee focuses closely on supporting and improving the federal workforce, and I believe more needs to be done to ensure we are building a strong, modern workforce by attracting and retaining the best talent.

Implementing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to be a challenge as DHS works to integrate management across the department and through its management functional areas.  This is an issue my subcommittee will continue to examine over this Congress.  I want to thank DHS Under Secretary for Management, Rafael Borras, for his hard work on these issues and for keeping the subcommittee updated on the progress.

Finally, I want to highlight the addition of the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) management of oil and gas resources to the High Risk List this year.  It is clear that more attention needs to be paid to fundamental management practices and organizational structures at DOI.

I also want to, again, thank my friend Senator Voinovich for his efforts over his career to improve government management.  I look forward to continuing our work this year with the subcommittee’s new Ranking Member, Senator Ron Johnson.